Lobbying government for clarity

Chair of Certass Jon Vanstone looks at the negative impact a poorly judged announcement can have on an industry recovering from lockdown.

I write this just after the Green Homes Grant has been announced to help increase the energy efficiency of properties and, though in principle this is a very good news for the industry, the reality at present is quite different.

There have been lots of reports of homeowners deciding to delay projects and wait for September to access the cash available from government instead. This has been exacerbated by The Martin Lewis Money Show advising consumers to hold off buying double glazing until September.

Without intervention, this has the potential to have a massively negative impact on the glazing sector, which we know had been experiencing a fairly successful bounce back after lockdown.

It’s a huge risk for our members, so Certass is in the process of lobbying government to give clarity on the information and suggest changes to the policy that will make it a really positive move from government for our industry.

I have written to Alok Sharma direct and am in conversation with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy team. My suggestion is that glazing is included as a primary measure for the scheme and the government enables backdating of funds to consumers with immediate effect.

We will also be questioning how SMEs can have their place on the list of accredited companies so that the initiative can be of real value for reputable, local installers, as that is the main question being asked by our members.

The bigger issue around this situation is: why was glazing not invited to the discussion about this policy before it was announced? Engagement with us beforehand would, I’m sure, have flagged these potential issues early on, so that this stalling of the market could have been avoided altogether. But, historically, as an industry, we have made very little commitment to collaborating with other organisations on these issues.

Whereas other sectors are invited to discussion groups, help to fund training initiatives, and are open to friendly collaboration within their own sector, it does not happen at the same level in glazing. It’s often surprised me, as anyone who has been to a glazing industry event can safely say that we’re a pretty social bunch.

As it stands, I am generally invited to be a part of government groups and committees from my involvement in other construction and home improvement sectors, and that is how the glazing point of view is brought forward. This has improved somewhat through the Covid-19 crisis, with the part that Certass has played in bringing good information to government, direct from my conversations with installers in our forum and talking to fabricators and manufacturers.

It’s something I am keen to continue, as a collective voice is always stronger, and is part of the reason we have brought forward the launch of Supply Chain membership for Certass Trade Association. Included in membership is a monthly webinar with myself where I can update members with news from government – whether that’s around Building Regulation updates or the modernisation of MTC requirements.

Big change is coming concerning competency, and it’s another issue that has the potential to massively impact our industry. Having a place at the table in those discussions will be crucial for government to get it right, but also to make the changes a success. Preparation is key.

The webinars will also give me a great opportunity to hear the thoughts of fabricators and manufacturers, understand the challenges they are currently facing, and take them back to the government discussions. It’s very much a two-way conversation and will give us action points to consider.

As this goes to print, we are continuing to lobby government and updates will be sent to Glass Times, so keep an eye on their website.